On Being Successful
At this point in my carreer I can safely say I feel like an author though the definition of "successful" eludes me. Who gets to define successful? Is it a feeling? Or the applause of your peers? Or perhaps a certain relatively stable income?
At this point I have written The Road Goes Ever On - A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings and it has sold well...though not breaking any notable records. It simply has been making it's way into the larger world...I hope rather like a whisper that encourages souls wearied by this world's trauma and drama. Tolkien's classic, The Lord of the Rings is such a great read because it achieves its author's dearest hope - it reflects "a splintered fragment of the eternal truth that is with God". As Tolkien's mother was a Catholic convert and suffered for her decision Tolkien saw the conviction of a chosen faith in the face of severe opposition. He was also cared for by a Catholic priest who, though he did not always agree with him, yet he understood and appreciated his years of faithful service through his dedication to Tolkien's welfare. Tolkien was more than his mother's sufferings, his guardian's convictions, or the influences of WWI. He was a man of his own particular genius who cared deeply for the world around him (especially the natural world) and wrote from the humus of that soil.
When I decided to write my book I was looking at my children and other people's children who were very attracted to The Lord of the Rings but did not know why they felt so involved...so personally effected. When I thought about it and searched my own heart it became evident to me that Tolkien was just reminding us of our better selves...of what we were made by God to become. And in that message, that hope, I wrote The Road Goes Ever On - A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings as a sort of guide book bridging the soul's longing from sublime mystery to our "real" everyday world. It is not a perfect book and I'm sure lots of people can do better but it does what I set out to do - and that was to encounter the mystical and reach through humanity's great quest toward our highest hope...a relationship with the God who made us.
My next set of books - The Deliverance Trilogy presently has book one, ARAM, beginning to make forward strides, just beginning to step into the big world on its own volition...though it is a slow process, while book two Ishtar's Redemption - Trial by Fire is just out and still blinking its eyes in the bright lights of the established order. Book three Neb the Great- Shadows of the Past is in the editing process and the cover is just being formed.
These three books were created from a desire to simply write a good story in which real human experiences could be understood from a welcoming perspective. Sometimes it seems we are so close to our own selves and those around us that we see nothing clearly...but when face to face with a made-up character we can identify their feelings, confusion, struggles and the nuances of their lived reality in a way that helps is perceive our own selves better...kind of like looking in a mirror. I was especially drawn to the conflict between the natural and super natural worlds. But the natural world and the supernatural cosmos have good and bad aspects...wonder and terror...and it is foolish to think that we have anything more than a limited and uneasy control over either. In the Deliverance Trilogy I dealt with some tough issues that surprised me in the writing for they go beyond the sight of mere mortals...but we have more than mere human eyes to see with...we have the eyes of faith that can see into realms that exist in the far interior universe. We do not see fully...and we do not understand what we see...but we know there is more than what is just here and now...and I find that fascinating, invigorating, and sometimes quite frightening. The world is much larger than we realize, and we are an intimate part of it whether we would see that or no.
My next couple of books are called Georgios I and Georgios II about a young boy who has grown up on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea raised by loving grandparents who happen to thoroughly dislike his Roman father. It is a growing up story that embraces more than just the life of a single boy but the whole of Jewish Old Testament history as it faces the reality of Christianity and the growing pains of encountering a new understanding of the one God who is much bigger than anyone realized. Georgios does the typical things a young Greek boy might do when he is angry - he runs away and thinks he can prove his worth to the word only to discover that he doesn't even know who he is. There is mystery and romance on both the personal as well as the supernatural levels...it reaches through the heart right into the soul. I am not sure what will happen with Georgios...I have placed it in the Tuscany Press Fiction Contest....but we'll see. I have confidence that Georgios will follow in his elder brother's footsteps one day....no matter how long that may take.
The book I am working on currently takes place in the early 400′s in Britain right after the major Anglo-Saxon invasions when Rome has pulled out and let the natives to handle things for themselves. There were Christian communities left behind who had to face the turmoil of invasion and desolation. Though the fights, battles and struggles of war are fascinating...I am rather tired of blood and gore. So this story takes place after all that and deals more with the personalities who have to adjust to a new world order. How does one live in a world that has just been destroyed? How does one start over? Well we'll just have to see....
So back to my original question - what defines success? Well, as an author I believe that it would be really nice to write great stories that other people actually read and enjoy. I also wouldn't be terribly opposed to breaking even monetarily in the process. But then I have to wonder why I was given the desire and the ability to write in the first place. I can't go around (with any modicum of modesty anyway) saying that I was gifted with insights that the world really needs to absorb. Nice ego lifting thought - but rarely true. No, I think the real reason I write is the same reason I pray...because I get something from it. I love my characters. I enjoy the plot lines. And I love exploring the world...not just the world of make-believe...but the world between and within souls. There is a universe that is relatively untouched. Sometimes we become so absorbed in the physical realities...trying to touch the edges of our universe that we forget...there is an interior world just as large and no less interesting. When we are in search if excitement and passion....rather than turning to spaceships and star systems...we might just want to look inside once in a while....and see what we can see....
And if that is not successful...well...there is always poetry.